State v. Martinez
Narcotics field test results are based on scientific principles and, therefore, when challenged, must comport with the principles of scientific reliability as set forth in the 1997 Connecticut Supreme Court case of State v. Porter. For an alleged drug transaction involving three people in a park observed by police conducting surveillance, Anthony Martinez was convicted, following a jury trial, of conspiracy to possess and possession of narcotics with intent to sell. Martinez appealed raising multiple claims. The Appellate Court reversed the conviction and remanded for a new trial, finding that prosecutorial impropriety deprived the defendant of a fair trial. Sufficient evidence supported the convictions. Based on the evidence, a sufficient, albeit circumstantial, factual nexus was found between the defendant and the drugs found on another to convict him of possession and the jury reasonably and logically could have inferred that the defendant was a willing and active participant in a conspiracy to possess cocaine and heroin with intent to sell. The trial court erred in concluding that the reliability of narcotics field tests is well established and should have held a Porter hearing before admitting testimony about the results. No testimony regarding the scientific principles underlying the field tests or even regarding the broader scientific field of chemical analysis of narcotics was presented. No consensus exists among other jurisdictions or relevant scientific evidence treatises. But, the improper admission did not affect the outcome of the trial and was found harmless. However, the state's argument in closing, "why wasn't there any money found on [the defendant]," violated the trial court's suppression order. Statements about conspirators placing drugs and cash on their coconspirator went beyond the facts in evidence to improperly argue facts that were not a matter of the jury's common knowledge and were properly the realm of expert testimony. Although either statement alone may not have established impropriety, the cumulative effect of both statements deprived the defendant of his right to a fair trial. The analyzing factors from the 1987 Supreme Court case of State v. Williams included that the state's case was not strong and the improprieties went to the heart of the case of whether the state could prove that the defendant had dominion and control over drugs found on another and engaged in a conspiracy.